From wedding dresses to soap: Gaza event highlights Israeli siege

Over 1,000 items displayed at exhibition calling attention to Israel’s ‘suffocating’ Gaza siege, home to two million.

Jamal al-Khoudary: 'We wanted to highlight the suffering of the people in Gaza' [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]
Jamal al-Khoudary: 'We wanted to highlight the suffering of the people in Gaza' [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

School supplies, medical equipment, power generators, and even children’s bicycles – these are just some of the items displayed at a new exhibition in the Gaza Strip showcasing more than 1,000 “basic commodities” banned from entering the coastal enclave due to Israel’s crippling blockade.

Business owners, commerce officials and several non-governmental groups attended the event on Thursday, which coincided with an Israeli decision to block the supply of fuel and gas to the coastal enclave.

“We wanted to highlight the suffering of the people in Gaza,” said Jamal al-Khoudary, a Palestinian MP and the head of the Popular Committee to End Gaza’s Siege, the group organising the showcase.

“We wanted to show the world what humanitarian necessities Israel has banned from entering the strip,” Khoudary told Al Jazeera.

Baby bottles and diapers are also among the items that have been prohibited from entering Gaza [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Home to about two million Palestinians, the densely populated Gaza Strip has been dubbed the world’s largest open-air prison.

Its 12-year blockade by Israel, as well as neighbouring Egypt, has left its economy in tatters, with 300,000 being unemployed. 

The coastal enclave also suffers from a severe lack of electricity, leaving residents to rely on fuel-powered generators during long outages – sometimes, homes have access to power for only two hours a day.

Hammers are among items banned from entering Gaza [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

At the exhibition in Gaza City, items such as wedding dress, cleaning sponges, baby bottles and diapers are also on display – all prohibited from entering Gaza since Israel cut off the supply of essential commodities last month by partially sealing off the Karem Abu Salem, known as Kerem Shalom to Israelis, commercial border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

The closure of the vital crossing on July 9 only allowed for the transfer of humanitarian needs such as cooking gas as well as wheat and flour into Gaza, an official responsible for coordinating the movement of cargo through the border told Al Jazeera last month.

But after the most recent decision to also halt the flow of fuel and cooking gas, residents of the Gaza are expecting to face even harsher circumstances.

“The closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing has been utterly devastating,” Waleed al-Hosary, head of Gaza’s Chamber of Commerce, told Al Jazeera.

“Now they [Israel] banned fuel, gas and petrol too. What else is left?”

Hassan Ali Odeh: ‘The situation here can only be defined by one word: suffocation’ [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the shutting down of the crossing and the recent ban on fuel and gas shipments was in retaliation over Palestinians setting fire to Israeli land.

In recent months, Palestinians in Gaza have renewed protests against the naval, aerial and land blockade, as well as for their right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948.

At least 153 people have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the popular demonstrations – dubbed the Great March of Return – taking place along the fence with Israel.

Some of the protesters have used flaming objects attached to kites to set fire to agricultural land just over the fence. The incendiary kites and balloons have reportedly caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

According to Khoudary, some 3,000 trucks carrying supplies have been stopped at the border in the past two weeks. 

“This is all part of the ‘suffocating Gaza’ plan,” he said. “First, it was a siege; now, Israel is taking it to the next level.”

Children’s bicycles are banned from entering the Strip [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] [Al Jazeera]

The closure is also affecting Gaza’s exports, further straining an already devastated economy brought to its knees by the 12-year blockade. 

Some 40 to 50 trucks transporting local goods used to leave Gaza on a daily basis, the official at the border had said.

Local companies have also been hit hard by the siege.

Hassan Ali Odeh, owner of a travel agency, said his business activity has been “futile” for more than a decade.

His Ahli Travel and Tours company used to send people to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, a central tenet of Islam. But now, many of his agency’s offices are empty and dilapidated.

“I’m older than the state of Israel and lived through multiple occupations – from the British to the Egyptian and I can honestly say that nothing compares to Israel’s occupation and its suffocating siege,” the 80-year-old told Al Jazeera with a broken voice. 

“The siege is asking us to stop breathing and die,” Odeh added, describing the current situation for people living in the Strip.

“It’s just like when you deprive a baby of milk – the baby will die, and this is exactly what’s happening to the young generation,” he said.

Makeup, nail polish, cotton swabs are prohibited from entering Gaza [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera] 

Since the popular rallies in Gaza began on March 30, tensions between Israel and Hamas, the group that governs the strip, have escalated.

On July 15, in the largest daylight attack since the 2014 assault on Gaza, Israeli air raids bombed a crowded area, killing two Palestinian teenagers.

A delegation from Hamas is currently meeting with Egyptian and UN officials in Cairo in hopes that talks would usher in a ceasefire for the second time in approximately one month.

Meanwhile, organisers of the exhibition in Gaza are demanding international attention to deal with the worsening conditions in the coastal enclave.

“Every humanitarian crisis around the world warrants an international response,” Khoudary said.

“We need an urgent and immediate reaction.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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